Washington has a curious way of celebrating Barack Obama’s inaugural. The authorities are shutting down most of the city for the day.

Particularly hard hit will be the capital’s Northern Virginia suburbs. All the downtown bridges between Virginia and Washington will be closed to traffic from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. and only two of them will be open to pedestrians. One Virginian wondered if they would mine the Potomac River to stop desperate residents of the Old Dominion from paddling across.

"Walking, biking and mass transit — which is expected to be jammed — will provide the only access," The Washington Post cheerily reported. And if you bike you have to leave your two-wheeler at a "valet" bike parking lot by the Jefferson Memorial.

Virginians could be excused if they think this is pretty poor thanks for voting for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since LBJ, especially because Marylanders are free to drive into town until they hit an impenetrable traffic jam or the security perimeter that surrounds the downtown from the far side of the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial and well north of the White House.

Virginia state authorities insist this isn’t some "North-South vengeance thing," that Lee’s army was not suddenly going to rush the 14th Street Bridge and that closing off access to Washington was their idea. The authorities were spooked at the thought of inauguration-goers jamming the bridges, then abandoning their cars and proceeding on foot.

Obama could get an early case study in the difficulty of running the government by studying the security of his own inauguration — 58 government agencies were involved in planning it.

The authorities were spooked by their forecasts that as many as 4 million visitors might arrive to see history made, but apparently 1 million or more of these have been scared off and now the attendance is expected to be between 1.5 million and 3 million.

As they say in the national capital, "Welcome to President Obama’s inaugural. Now go away."

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